The Election Commission of India (ECI) on Friday issued an advisory warning political leaders to refrain from appealing to castes, raising communal passions and religious symbols, raking up personal issues, vilifying women and peddling half-truths as such violations of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) would invite strict action.

Dos and Don’ts

The dos and don’ts from the ECI are essentially to maintain decorum in public campaigning which often slips to the ugliest in almost all the elections, be it for Lok Sabha for different State Assemblies. Taking note of the various trends and cases of plummeting levels of political campaign discourse in recently held elections, the ECI said it has issued a further advisory to all political parties to maintain decorum and utmost restraint in public campaigning and raise the level of election campaigning to “issue” based debate.

“No appeal shall be made on the basis of caste/communal feelings of the electors. No activity, which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes/communities/religious/linguistic groups, shall be attempted,” one of the ECI advisory read.

Likewise, the political parties and leaders have been cautioned against making false statements and utterances without factual basis aimed at misleading the voters. Criticism of other parties or their workers on the basis of unverified allegations or distortions shall be avoided, was another issue flagged in the ECI advisory.

According to the ECI, the leaders have been barred from use of temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras or any places of worship for election propaganda or electioneering. References which ridicule the relations between devotee and deity or suggestions of divine censure shall not be made, the Commission made it clear. Social media posts vilifying and insulting the rivals or posts in bad taste or which are below dignity are not to be posted or shared, it observed.

The Commission has put additional responsibility on star campaigners and candidates of political parties regarding the MCC violations. The Commission officially stated that it has also “put the star campaigners and candidates on a ‘notice’ in case of violations that followed the previously known methodologies during elections to avoid MCC”.

The Commission will assess any indirect MCC violations as per advisory as a fair basis to re-work the notices to be given in the forthcoming elections. For the Lok Sabha polls and election to four State Legislative Assemblies, all phases and geographical area of elections shall be the basis to determine “repeat” offences.

While acknowledging the need to keep a balance between the freedom of expression and level playing field, the advisory noted that the Commission has been following a self-restrained approach since the previous few rounds of elections, presuming that its notice would serve as a moral censure to the candidate or star campaigner.